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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Behind the Scenes: An Editor in Action by Mary Hughes

Editor Christa Desir
What does an editor bring to the storytelling process? I’m thrilled to share a few insights from an actual first-pass edit made by brilliant editor Christa Desir on my latest vampire romance, Biting Oz. These samples are by no means all an editor can do to make your story shine, but hopefully they will shed some light on just how vital the editor’s role is. 

This simple change ramps the sentence from basic showing to yikes! Heroine and pit musician Junior is late getting to the theater and is about to miss the downbeat. 



“Overture, please.” Up front the pit director called the musicians to attention.
Before: I forked fingers into my hair, forgetting my scalp-tight braid, and nearly tore out hair.
After: I forked fingers into my hair, forgetting my scalp-tight braid, and nearly tore out a chunk. 

Here, a strategic pruning makes for maximum emotional impact. At the sausage store heroine Junior is overrun by customers. Hero Glynn sees this and acts. 

Before: Glynn saw my dilemma. Brilliant guy that he was, he glided to the door and did his vampire compulsion thing. “Inside, please. Form the line here.”
I loved him a little more in that moment.
He shepherded them all in and shut the door, then nudged the line to wind through the aisles. Oh wonderful man. Vampire. Whatever. I didn’t think I could love him any more.
Until he got behind the counter and started bagging.
Keeper. 

{Editor’s comment attached to second highlighted sentence: So you need to either drop this one or the earlier one bc it feels redundant.} 
 


After: Glynn saw my dilemma. Brilliant guy that he was, he glided to the door and did his vampire compulsion thing. “Inside, please. Form the line here.”
He shepherded them all in and shut the door, then nudged the line to wind through the aisles. Oh wonderful man. Vampire. Whatever. I didn’t think I could love him any more.
Until he got behind the counter and started bagging.
Author Mary Hughes at work
Keeper.

Am I the only writer who gets so myopic with plot nuances that characterizations suffer? Here’s an example of inadequate scene conflict coupled with character motivation issues. Heroine Junior goes to villain Camille’s bar to ask Camille to return hero Glynn’s mementos of home. On the way Junior aimlessly explores the bar (because I needed the descriptions established for a later, more action-packed scene where detailed descriptions would have been awkward). Camille says no and Junior makes a rude gesture and leaves.  

{Editor’s comment: This whole previous scene doesn’t really work to me. [Junior] goes and asks for the knickknacks and Camille won’t tell her so she leaves? I think at the very least, you need her snooping around, trying to hunt around the place to see if Camille hid them somewhere. Which will also give you the excuse you need to stumble on all the rooms instead of Junior just being nosy. Then Camille can find her and they can have that conversation. Then, I think Camille needs to throw her out (w/ help of bodyguards) so we feel like she at least tried. As it stands, she has accomplished nothing and it seems silly for her to have even gone.} 

Solving two problems with one stroke—sheer genius. Naturally I rewrote the scene. 

Best of all, an editor will tell you what works well, so that you can build on your strengths. At the end of Biting Oz’s first chapter, blue-eyed friend Julian (husband to friend Nixie) is warning heroine Junior not to go out for drinks with hero Glynn and young stage star Mishela.

“Junior, the thing is, Mishela and Glynn aren’t like you and Rocky.”
[Julian] was warning me off, just like Nixie…no, not just like Nixie, because of Nixie. The bricky titch had pulled a Business Maneuver #5—siccing a well-meaning relation on me. [ …] “Not like us? Are they brain-sucking zombies? Space aliens?” I gasped. “Mimes?”
"No, of course not.” He looked away. “Not exactly.”
“Then what? Exactly.”
“Well, I…” Frustration shaded his features. “I can’t say.” His eyes returned to mine and they were an eerie shade of violet. “But be very careful.”
That shook me. Smiling to cover it, I latched onto Rocky’s arm and pulled her out the door. He watched me with those strange violet eyes the whole way.
{Editor’s comment: Outstanding chapter one!!!}

Real vampires do musicals.

Biting Oz (Biting Love Book 5) 

Gunter Marie “Junior” Stieg is stuck selling sausage for her folks in small-town Meiers Corners. Until one day she’s offered a way out—the chance to play pit orchestra for a musical headed for Broadway: Oz, Wonderful Oz. 

But someone is threatening the show’s young star. To save the production, Junior must join forces with the star’s dark, secretive bodyguard, whose sapphire eyes and lyrical Welsh accent thrill her. And whose hard, muscular body sets fire to her passions. 

Fierce as a warrior, enigmatic as a druid, Glynn Rhys-Jenkins has searched eight hundred years for a home. Junior’s get-out-of-Dodge attitude burns him, but everything else about her inflames him, from her petite body and sharp mind to what she can do with her hip-length braid. 

Then a sensuous, insidious evil threatens not only the show, but the very foundations of Meiers Corners. To fight it, Junior and Glynn must face the truth about themselves—and the true meaning of love and home. 

Warning: Cue the music, click your heels together, make a wish and get ready for one steamy vampire romance. Contains biting, multiple climaxes, embarrassing innuendos, ka-click/ka-ching violence, sausage wars and—shudder—pistachio fluff. 

More about the Author:

Mary Hughes is a computer consultant, professional musician, and award-winning author. She has a wonderful husband (though happily-ever-after takes a lot of hard work) and two great kids. But she thinks that with all the advances in modern medicine, childbirth should be a lot less messy. Visit Mary at http://MaryHughesBooks.com. 

More About the Editor:

Christa Desir is not only a spectacular editor, she is also also the author of intense young adult novels. Her powerful story Trainwreck is coming from SimonPulse. Visit Christa at http://ChristaDesir.com

 

6 comments:

Maria D. said...

Those were excellent changes and it's clear why even experienced authors need editing:) Christa Desir did you proud!

Mary Hughes said...

Hey Maria! Yes, I was thrilled to get her. I think editing is one of the toughest jobs in the business because you have to shape both the words and the author, and Christa does both brilliantly.

Nancy said...

An interesting and enlightening blog. Please thank your editor for joining in.10

Mary Hughes said...

Thanks Nancy! I was saving this topic for a special blog and was happy to share it here :) I'll be sure to pass on your thanks to Christa!

Tamara Eaton said...

Thanks for this. As an editor I appreciate what goes into the process, but often writers don't quite understand. They think an editor should rewrite the book for them, OR sometimes they think their story is so perfect it doesn't need any tweaking. :) Either thinking isn't quite correct.

A good editor will help a writer flesh things out, point out what works as well as what doesn't in addition to the copy edit of grammar and usage.

Nice samples.

Mary Hughes said...

Hi Tamara! Thank you for your kind words! I think of writing like a sculpture--the author chisels away the stone and scrap until the story emerges; then the editor can point out the final places for the author to apply the chisel to make the figure and art shine through. Line editing is polishing the stone to a smooth finish. Strengthening the story without affecting the author's voice is a difficult and exacting job and I honor all editors for doing it!